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Flamingo

Flamingos (genus Phoenicopterus monotypic in family Phoenicopteridae) are sociable wading birds, usually 3″“5 feet in height, and are found in both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. They are more numerous in the latter, but there are four species in the Americas against two in the Old World.

Physiology

The larger species breed and feed in saline or brackish habitats. Their compact, mud nests are in the form of a mound with a concave top, into which the female lays a single white egg.

Diet

The Flamingo filter-feeds on shellfish and algae: their oddly-shaped beaks being especially adapted to separating mud and silt from the food they consume, and are uniquely used upside-down. The filtering of food items is helped by hairy structures called lamellae which line the mandibles, as well as the large rough-surfaced tongue. Flamingos are also noted for balancing themselves on one leg while standing and feeding.

Color

The young hatch with white plumage, but the feathers of a flamingo in adulthood range from light pink to bright red, due to carotenoids obtained from their food supply. A flamingo that is well fed and healthy is vibrantly colored. The pinker a flamingo is the more desirable it is as a potential mate. A white or pale flamingo, however, is usually unhealthy or suffering from a lack of food. Notable exceptions are the flamingos in captivity, many of which turned a pale pink as they are not fed foods containing sufficient amounts of carotene. This is changing as more zoos begin to add shrimp and other supplements to the diets of their flamingos. All flamingos have 12 black flight feathers on each wing.

Feeding

Flamingos produce milk-like substance called pigeon milk. This is due to the action of a hormone called prolactin. It contains more fat and less protein and it is produced in glands lining the whole of the upper digestive tract, not just the crop. Both parents nurse their chick, and young flamingos feed on this milk, which also contains red and white blood cells, for about two months until their bills are developed enough to filter feed.

One-legged Pose

Flamingos are known to stand on one leg whilst sleeping. This is in order to not let body heat escape into the water in which their feet are submerged.

PHOTO CREDIT: Aaron Logan

Flamingo


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